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Hey Glenn Beck, Our Constitution is Not Based on the Bible

Glenn Beck keeps insisting that the Constitution is based on the Christian Bible, backed up by a fraudulent interpretation of an historian's 1984 study. Debunking below.

This installment of my series debunking the American history lies told on Glenn Beck is about a study published in 1984 in The American Political Science Review, and how that study is misrepresented to make it appear that our founding documents were based on the Bible, especially the Book of Deuteronomy.

Here's the transcript of what I said my recent video, for those who can't watch videos at work, or have slow connections:

The study referred to by Beck and Barton was conducted by Donald S. Lutz of the University of Houston. Lutz published his findings in a 1984 article in The American Political Science Review, and misrepresentations of it began appearing a few years later. The first one was in John Eidsmoe's 1987 book Christianity and the Constitution, which was soon followed by the version most often seen today -- the one created by David Barton in his 1988 book The Myth of Separation.

What revisionists like Barton typically do to distort this study is to accurately present some of the charts of the study's findings, but omit the parts of Lutz's explanations of these findings that explain what the numbers in the charts actually mean. That way they can just replace the real explanations with whatever they want their followers to think the numbers mean.

So, let's start with what Barton said on Beck about the writings of the founders: "34% of their quotes came out of the Bible." That comes from this chart in Lutz's study.

Lutz chart 1

Now, based on this chart alone it really does appear that 34% of the citations in the documents studied came from the Bible. That's because they did. And, without Lutz's explanation of this figure, this chart would seem to support Barton's claim that the Bible, more than any other source, influenced the political thought of the founders.

But let's take a look at Lutz's explanation of that chart:

"…From Table 1 we can see that the biblical tradition is most prominent among the citations. Anyone familiar with the literature will know that most of these citations come from sermons reprinted as pamphlets; hundreds of sermons were reprinted during the era, amounting to at least 10% of all pamphlets published. These reprinted sermons accounted for almost three-fourths of the biblical citations…"

So, in other words, about three-quarters of all the Bible citations that make up that 34% came from sermons, a sub-category of just one of the categories of the types of documents used in the study, and "anyone familiar with the literature," as Barton incessantly claims to be, would know that. And this bumps the Bible down into the range of classical influences for all the documents that weren't sermons, and moves the enlightenment and whig influences into the number one and two spots for all the documents that weren't sermons.

But, of all the findings in this study that are omitted by Barton and the other revisionists, none are nearly as important as those found in the section of Lutz's article titled "The Pattern of Citations from 1787 to 1788."

As seen in the first chart, Lutz broke down the number of citations from all sources by decade.

Lutz chart 2

But, in addition to this, he also singled out the writings from 1787 and 1788, the crucial two year period when our government was actually being formed. The revisionists completely omit this part of the study. Why? Because Lutz found hardly any biblical citations during the time that the Constitution was being written and debated in the press, and, on top of that, not a single one of these biblical references were found in any of the federalist writings in support of the Constitution. The only ones he found were used by the anti-federalists to argue against the Constitution.